The late comedian George Carlin had a famous comedy monologue about “A Place for My Stuff” where he described our homes as a place to hold all our stuff — all those belongings that we may or may not need.
When I moved a few years ago, I got rid of what I thought was all my excess stuff. Books I knew I would never read again were donated to the local library for their used book sales. Furniture and clothes were donated to various charities.
Even after that clear-out I still had too much stuff.
I went on another clean-out binge last year when I realized I never wore half of the clothes in my closets and contacted several charities who came and hauled away 40 or so large bags and boxes of clothes and household items.
While I’m not exactly a minimalist, my goal is to just keep thinning out as much as possible. I don’t want whoever has to clean out my house after I die to tell everyone that I was a hoarder. I’d rather be remembered as someone fairly organized, who unfortunately has nothing of significant value. I just want them to destroy any old photographs so that they don’t end up in an antique store, to be bought by some interior decorator looking for something to add to a wall grouping.
Yesterday, I promised myself that I would redouble my efforts at getting things organized — not because I feel my days are numbered, but because of what I saw on television.
I was home sick and just turned on the TV out of boredom. I don’t watch TV during the day, so I didn’t realize that they run multiple episodes of the same program for about 10 hours and yesterday was devoted to “American Pickers.”
The program follows two very nice men named Frank and Mike as they travel the US in search of antiques and collectibles. They follow leads or just stop at homes with an overflow of old cars or machinery in the yard. When they find something they think they can resell, they make an offer to buy the item, and the negotiations begin.
The people they meet are colorful characters, to be sure, who like to collect stuff. Many of them are hoarders who just can’t give anything up.
Frank and Mike traveled to homes and barns packed to the rafters with stuff: tools, toys, motorcycle parts, medical equipment… One gentleman had an entire 3-story warehouse with everything neatly organized. Other people just had things piled up in precarious stacks.
I have friends who can’t pass a yard sale or antique store without stopping to see what they can take home. While hoarding can be classified as a mental disorder, I think my friends just enjoy the hunt. Two of them don’t have a large income by any means, so finding a little blue bottle or an old camera for a dollar or two can be an inexpensive form of entertainment for them.
However, on those few occasions when I’m in an antique store, I notice that many of the buyers are antique dealers themselves. They buy something from a dealer, take it to their shop or table at a flea market, where they then sell it to another antique dealer. They are basically paying to recycle the items.
I’m sure if I looked around, I would find some of the stuff that I donated to the charities sitting on the shelves of various antique stores.
The trick is to not buy it back.